Sunday, October 28, 2018

This Dismal Week in American Politics. Or Turning and Turning in the Widening Gyre.

William Butler Yeats:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

On Wednesday this past week,  two people were butchered at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky:

A gunman who killed two people at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., on Wednesday tried to enter a predominantly black church minutes before the attack, the police said on Thursday.
The man, Gregory Bush, 51, of Louisville, was arraigned Thursday on two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment. He was ordered held with bail set at $5 million. The victims, Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice E. Stallard, 69, were both black, while Mr. Bush is white.


The police said there was no indication that Mr. Bush knew either of the victims, nor did he have any known connection to the grocery store. Mr. Bush has a history of mental illness, Chief Sam Rogers of the Jeffersontown Police Department said at a news conference on Thursday. Court records show that he also had a long history of domestic violence charges, and had previously been barred from possessing a firearm.
The attack is investigated as a possible hate crime.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

All through the past week most of the leadership of the Democratic Party, the CNN, and several other individuals who might to him look like they had disrespected Donald Trump, Our Savior received pipe bombs in the mail:

Targets have included Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, former CIA director John Brennan, former attorney general Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Robert De Niro and billionaire donor George Soros.

The suspect, a registered Republican man from Florida,  has a lengthy criminal record, including 

in 2002, a “threat to throw, place, project or discharge any destructive device.”

These acts of political domestic terrorism aimed at many of the leaders of one of the two major parties met with an oddly non-serious response.  Some on the right openly speculated that the bombs were a false flag operation.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

On Saturday, to cap this week,  an anti-Semitist man opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing at least eleven people in a clear hate crime.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

At least the last two killers appear to have been radicalized by watching right-wing news in the United States.

The biggest recent news item there has been the extremely frightening caravan of a few thousand Central American migrants approaching the southern border of this wealthy country with its several hundred million inhabitants, some presumably cowering under their beds. 

But in the right-wing news this, my friends, is an invasion, something to be very scared of, something, which requires the military at the border, and something which might, just might be a way for a few Middle Eastern terrorists to get into the US. 

An earlier president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, told worried Americans in a different context that "the only thing we have to fear itself,"  but our current president loves to fan the flames of fear.  Here is Trump on the migrant caravan:


Trump later admitted that he has no proof of his assertion that the caravan contained Middle Easterners.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.


This is the story of the last week.  It's not a story of incivility from both sides of the political aisle, and it's not a story of the horrible violence of the Antifa movement.  Both sides can be and have been violent, but attempts at some sort of false equality are truly misplaced here.

We are not turning and turning in a widening gyre because we have all somehow forgotten how to treat others with respect, but first and foremost because of decades of right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and many online hate sites which declare the hatred of women, minorities and Democrats to be justified and patriotic.*

Still, Donald Trump has repeatedly "jokingly" signaled that he is comfortable with political violence and that he admires a good brawler.  He also explicitly refuses to bear any responsibility for the influence his own statements may have, and he is simply incapable of acting presidentially in any context for more than thirty seconds or so.

Then his inner demons take over and he starts preaching hatred to his red hat acolytes.  This is what he tweeted shortly after CNN received a pipe bomb:

But we all knew this on that fateful election day in 2016.  Here are two of my posts written around that time.  They are still worth reading, if only as a reminder that a sufficient minority of American voters preferred this man to that crooked woman, and quite possibly to any woman.

The falcon (the forces Trump has loosed) cannot hear the falconer (Trump in his role as the inciter of hate) if the falconer suddenly tells the falcon not to tear and rend the flesh of the prey.  And this is what we now see at Trump's never-ending victory rallies where his bottomless need of assurance is momentarily sated by the adulation of his followers.

But the crowds are restless, now.  They don't want to hear a more presidential Trump.  They have tasted blood and they need more.  Lock Her Up (any her will do)!

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity...**


*  In other words, the right began this trend and magnified it over the last few decades. Donald Trump is simply the natural outgrowth from all the propaganda conservatives have swallowed every day for years.  This does not absolve those on the left who have joined the same trend.  But the fault is not in our stars. 

**  At this point in my writing I found out that Charlie Pierce had used parts of the same poem on the same topic.  Great minds and all that.

I could have added stuff about the centre not holding, except there isn't a political center anymore, what with the conservatives having slipped to the right of Attila the Hun.